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Coastal Planting Update

Early morning “bag up” before heading down hillside to plant redwood trees
After shuttling trees and planting crew 3.5 miles to planting site, tree boxes are stored under tarp to keep cool and out of sun until planted

After shuttling trees and planting crew 3.5 miles to the planting site, tree boxes are stored under a tarp to keep them cool and out of sun until planted.

March 2014, William Morrison, Coastal District Manager –

A successful reforestation program can be achieved with proper planning, tree selection, site preparation, vegetation control, superior planting techniques and methodology, and other factors such as selecting the appropriate contractors and/or nurseries.

All of these factors are controllable and can be manipulated by the reforestation manager.  One factor that strongly influences the successful outcome of a reforestation program that is not controllable is weather.

Both temperature and precipitation can negatively or positively influence the outcome of a reforestation program, particularly within the establishment phase when preparing to plant a new forest stand.

Air temperature, humidity, precipitation, weather patterns, wind, soil temperature, and soil moisture are some of the elements or characteristics evaluated and monitored before, during, and after planting a new forest stand.  Specifically, when planting redwood trees on our coastal properties in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties, evaluating these elements is essential to understanding the success of a particular planting season.

All of the redwood reforestation stock that is currently being planted on company properties are referred to as “cultivars” that were established from cuttings via tissue culture or through “macro” cuttings.

One of the many redwood seedlings that was planted.

One of the many redwood seedlings that was planted.

These cuttings have been grown in a greenhouse where conditions sometimes are not indicative of the climatic and soil conditions present at the reforestation site.  This situation sometimes presents challenges in survivability and adaptability of the trees to be successfully established.  Another environmental factor affecting survival is that the redwood cultivars do not remain dormant as long as other conifers and can be extremely sensitive to cold temperature, low humidity, low soil moisture, and cold, dry winds late in winter or early spring.

Historically, our reforestation approach has been successful by planting the redwood cultivars on the North Coast properties in early to late February.  This year, since we had a larger than normal amount to plant, our intentions were to start a few weeks early in mid-January.  However, after observing the significant lack of precipitation in December and January in addition to nightly freezing along the North Coast, adjustments were made to delay planting until early February.

Trees are planted by contractor “Great Tree Tenders

Trees are being planted by our contractor “Great Tree Tenders”.

With long-range forecasts indicating precipitation in late January and early February, we took a calculated risk and began planting into drier than usual soils on January 29, 2014.  Fortunately, precipitation developed as forecasted the next day, and numerous weather systems continued to deliver significant amounts of precipitation throughout the month of February.

Soil moisture began to increase to desired levels and we finished planting 191,251 redwood trees on February 17, 2014.

The redwood trees were planted at the Old Maguire Ranch, Hedgpeth Ranch, and at the burned landscape at the Comptche property (see article “Flynn Fire Incident” – posted December 2012).  Reasonable soil moisture was observed at all areas with the exception of Comptche, specifically in areas where the wildfire burned so intensely that it created a “hydrophobic layer” inhibiting precipitation to saturate through the soil profile. In these areas, water just beaded up and rolled off the surface, leaving the soil underneath completely dry.

Crews manually scalped and broke apart this hydrophobic layer of topsoil with the intent of increasing infiltration rates and soil moisture levels down to the root zone of the newly planted redwood trees.

Hopefully the remainder of this winter and spring will be warm and wet to ensure optimum levels for survival, growth, and establishment of these newly planted redwood trees.

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